While composites may seem like relatively new materials, they have actually been around for quite some time. What exactly are composites? In short, they are a combination of two or more dissimilar materials that combine to take advantage of the best properties of each, or impart a new set of characteristics that neither could achieve separately.
One of the earliest uses of composites dates back to 3000 BC when ancient Egyptians embedded straw in mud bricks to control shrinkage cracks and improve strength. Innovations over the last five millennia have brought about notable composites such as carbon fiber, which exhibits unique fatigue behavior, and aramid fibers that can form stiff and light constructions. These days composites are gaining even greater popularity, especially in the aerospace industry.
The use of composites in aerospace has doubled every five years since 1987, with new composites popping up regularly. These materials are prized for their versatility, allowing them to be used for structural applications and component parts in airplanes and space shuttles. They can be found in wing assemblies, rotor blades, propellers, seats and instrument enclosures. As an experiment, Boeing successfully replaced 11,000 metal components with just 1,500 composite parts. By substituting heavy metals for lighter composites, engineers can improve the lift to weight ratios, and reduce weight by 20 to 50 percent.
The aerospace industry commonly relies on three types of composites in flight vessels — carbon fiber-, glass- and aramid-reinforced epoxy. The materials hold significant advantages over their metal counterparts. They can be used to form monocoque (‘single-shell’) molded structures which are stronger in a head-to-head comparison with a similar metal formation. Due to their thermal stability, composites do not experience excessive expansion or contraction as a result of temperature changes. Their high damage tolerance improves accident survivability. Finally, composite materials eliminate any electrical corrosion issues that might occur.
The future of the aerospace industry can be found in composites. The weight reduction properties alone give an edge to commercial airlines that can accrue significant energy savings by switching out of heavy metals. In addition, their resistance to corrosion and ability to reduce component count saves money on maintenance interventions and costly aircraft downtime. Advances in composite materials will provide remarkable strength and stiffness in lightweight solutions, which promotes superior aircraft performance.
* Magnum Venus Products. (2017, december 7). The Use Of Composites Is Rocketing In The Aerospace Industry. Opgehaald van Magnum Venus Products: https://www.mvpind.com/the-use-of-composites-is-rocketing-in-the-aerospace-industry/